Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Chocolate cake, carpe diem and that other "c" word

I just had a slice of chocolate “I just found out my grandma has breast cancer and there’s a good chance I’ll have it too” cake.

But for real, I just had a piece of chocolate cake that I would usually feel incredibly guilty about eating. I would have obsessed about my consumption of that creamy filling moist cake combo for the rest of the night wondering why my self-control is so terrible or why I didn’t grab my orange flavored dried cranberries out of my desk instead.

I’m not even the type of person that eats my feelings. It just seemed appropriate.

It was chocolate and comforting and soothing and I don’t even care.

My mom and dad went to see some relatives, my grandpa’s grave and my grandma. She has been bed-ridden for at least 5 years I think and hasn’t remembered anyone in closer to 10. She doesn’t feed herself, can’t move, just lies in bed and gurgles for the most part. As my mom pointed out in a text, her skin still looks fabulous, no wrinkles or anything. None of this makes it any less difficult to hear (also in a text) that she has breast cancer.

As if her state wasn’t bad enough, let’s just pile more on top of that. Watching someone slip away with Alzheimer’s is just watching that person deteriorate until all they can achieve is basic functions that sustain life. I love my grandma and I know she is lying in that bed, but she hasn’t been the grandma that took me to poker where I sat under the table in a smoke-filled room and played with the cat, or the grandma that gave me nametags with my name on them from Hershey Park in a long time. She isn’t the same grandma that loved gambling and sometimes let me pick the greyhounds she bet on (I always chose them by how much a I liked their names.)

Now, it isn’t just about Alzheimer’s and that I’m scared my dad and I are going to turn into bed-ridden shells someday. Now, it’s a fear that I’m going to get breast cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, many of my friend’s moms have had breast cancer, a sorority sister close to my age has it, and it’s all terrifying and real and present. October basically turns pink every year with breast cancer awareness so it’s hard to push aside anyway. According to breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer.

·      A woman’s risk of breast cancer approximately doubles if she has a first-degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
·      About 15% of women who get breast cancer have a family member diagnosed with it.
·      About 85% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer.

It looks pretty scary when you look at it through numbers, doesn’t it?

I guess I could be just as scared about the pancreatic cancer my grandpa died of.

Maybe I wouldn’t be so concerned if Angelina Jolie’s double mastectomy hadn’t been a massive topic of discussion for a while. I’m thinking if I have that same genetic issue if I will have to consider that option if I somehow manage to make a ton of money one day. I mean, Melissa Etheridge thought it was a cowardly choice, so maybe no? I’m worried that if I get married I’m going to put my family through the stress of a loved one with the disease.

And maybe I’m over reacting. I think we all think deep down we won the genetic lottery that we’ll never have to worry about that stuff. If we feel perfectly healthy right now, there’s no way something like that could happen to us. But life has a funny way of proving us wrong.

For now, I suppose that cake was a good way to keep from unraveling quickly while at work. And I feel surprising OK. After all, I’m lucky enough to be healthy right now in this moment. I’m lucky enough to get to eat that fatty piece of heaven, whether that changes eventually is yet to be seen, but I guess I’m right there with everyone else wondering if they’ll inherit a tragedy.

That’s just no way to think and no fun. For those with ailments now, you’re so brave and I’m totally in awe of your strength, and for those with me waiting, well… let’s just help others, support each other, carpe diem and eat cake.